Democrats have a decision to make in the wake of the Mueller report: whether to consider impeaching President Donald Trump over it or not.

It’s an enormously consequential decision that, in the worst-case scenario, could stain House Democrats as the lawmakers who had a chance but didn’t forcefully act after a special counsel report found the president may have broken the law. But going after impeachment could also cost Democrats the 2020 presidential election.

“I think what we are going to have to decide as a caucus is: What is the best thing for the country?” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said Sunday on ABC News’s “This Week.”

As Democrats debate their course of action after the release of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report into Russian election interference, here are the arguments they are probably considering.

The case for impeachment: Send a message to the next president that Trump-like behavior is not okay:

No one expects Congress to actually impeach Trump. That would require a sizable number of Republicans to be on board with the idea, and very few have even criticized the president’s actions as outlined in the Mueller report, let alone said it merits his ouster.

But this camp argues that Congress should still go through the motions of impeachment to demonstrate to the next president that if you behave the way Trump did — lying to the American people, indifferent or even hostile about the rule of law – you will face consequences.

“Congress’ failure to impeach would set a dangerous precedent and imperil the nation as it would vest too much power in the executive branch and embolden future officeholders to further debase the U.S. presidency, if that’s even possible,” House Financial Services Committee Maxine Waters, D-Calif., said in a statement after the Mueller report came out.

Rep. Norma Torres, D-Calif., told Politico that the Mueller report changed her mind about impeachment. She said she now “absolutely” believes that the president obstructed justice, which neatly fits the definition of “high crimes and misdemeanors” — the bar for impeachment.

These lawmakers appear to be the minority voice in their party, but four legal experts with whom The Post spoke also say that Congress must do something for history’s sake.

“If the precedent created by the Trump investigation is that a president can fire a special counsel investigating a president, then the Rule of Law is doomed,” Jens David Ohlin, the vice dean of Cornell Law School, said in a statement.

The case against impeachment: The political costs for Democrats are too high:

If the case for impeachment is a moral and legal one, the case against impeachment is a political one. Trying to get Trump out of office via the halls of Congress could directly undermine Democrats’ more realistic efforts to unseat him at the ballot box in 2020.

Impeachment may play well with the liberal base. (Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Julián Castro have called for Congress to consider it.) But there’s plenty of evidence that the rest of the country may view impeachment as an overreach.

In a Washington Post-Schar School poll conducted in March, before the release of the Mueller report, half of the U.S. adults surveyed said the report will make no difference in whom they vote for president. Republicans, who are trying to win back control of the full Congress next year, feel on solid political ground backing up Trump’s talking points that he did nothing wrong.

A majority of the 40 pickups for House Democrats in the 2018 midterms came in more moderate districts, places such as Kansas and Oklahoma and New Mexico. Those voters, theorize Democratic leaders, are more worried about health-care costs and jobs than enforcing theoretical constitutional checks and balances for future presidents.

“He’s just not worth it,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told The Washington Post in March. Instead, she has urged her vulnerable Democrats to focus on “kitchen-table issues.” “Like a jackhammer: lower health-care costs, bigger paychecks, cleaner government,” she said recently.

Her calculation appears to remain the same even after the Mueller report’s release. The Washington Post’s Karoun Demirjian and Rachael Bade report that Democratic leaders handed out talking points after the report that did not once mention the word “impeachment.”

The case for pursuing Mueller report spinoffs: It’s better than nothing:

This camp argues that there are other ways to damage the president than impeachment proceedings.

House Democrats have launched half a dozen investigations into Trump that could be damaging to him. Democrats seem likely to fold the Mueller report into those investigations, which would help highlight it via high-profile hearings involving Attorney General William P. Barr and Mueller.

But the pro-impeachers argue that it’s not clear what new information Congress could get about Trump and potential obstruction-of-justice actions he took via spinoff inquiries stemming from the Mueller report. Expect any interview Mueller gives to hew closely, even exactly, to the report, said Jessica Levinson, a law professor at Loyola University. Plus, Mueller had nearly two years to conduct his investigation. Congress has 18 months until the next election and a host of other jobs to do. It risks running out of time to conduct an investigation as legally and politically delicate as this.

Every action carries with it risks, some more long-term than others. Democrats need to decide which risk they can live with the most, and it appears to be a very tough decision.

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